All but two Gippsland trains will chug back onto the tracks in a fortnight after months of service disruptions and replacement coaches.
Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan announced work to reduce wheel wear, accelerate maintenance and fix boomgate detection issues had been “more effective than anticipated” on Tuesday at Parliament House.
More than 93 per cent of services across the major regional lines will be back on the tracks on 21 March, including all but two Gippsland services – the line hardest hit by disruptions.
Ms Allan said V/Line in partnership with Metro had undertaken a lot of work to the satisfaction of the safety regulator to find an interim solution to see line restrictions on the Gippsland line lifted.
“We will see that line restriction lifted on the Gippsland line, which will see a return of passenger services for the Gippsland community,” she said.
It follows a V/Line high speed train failing to trigger a boom gate at Dandenong in January.
The new VLocity trains have been banned to operate between Pakenham and the city while V/Line investigates the incident and other concerns about wheels wearing rapidly.
Ms Allan said travel would continue to be free for passengers on the remaining coach replacement services with full restoration of services still on track for the middle of the year.
“There is still more work to be done, but we are on the right track and I will continue working as hard as I can to return V/Line services to the level people in regional Victoria expect and deserve,” she said.
Every Ballarat peak train service will be re-instated, while most services will be restored on the Geelong and Bendigo corridors.
Gippsland V/Line Users Group spokesperson Natalie Thorne said she welcomed the announcement and hoped to also see punctuality reinstated for the Gippsland line.
“We look forward to further questions to the announcement in the coming days,” Ms Thorne said.
Member for Morwell Russell Northe said the announcement provided some relief to regular commuters with the reinstatement of regular services.
Mr Northe said he was still concerned about the major delays experienced by passengers.
He said he knew of a Traralgon man who was spending anywhere between six to 10 hours per week on buses and trains, to the detriment of his family life.
Mr Northe said service punctuality, capacity and infrastructure remained unresolved, with a need for more services at peak time, additional carriages and track duplication.
“We need to consider a dedicated line like other regional counterparts,” Mr Northe said, noting Geelong, Bendigo and Ballarat.
The 11.20am service from Southern Cross and the 4.15pm service from Traralgon will continue as train replacement coaches.